TitleThe Dark Half
Author: Stephen King
Page Count/Review Word Count: 470
This is described as Stephen King’s masterpiece of imagination, and while I think he does have other books that are better, this is definitely up there towards the top. It’s also the only Stephen King story other than Misery where I think it really works that the main character is a writer, and that’s because in those two books the plot would only work if their protagonists were authors. In the rest of them, it tends to just feel gratuitous and dare-I-say even self-referential.
In this one, we follow author Thad Beaumont as he kills off his fictional alter-ego, George Stark. The novel is clearly inspired by King’s own pseudonym, Richard Bachman, and indeed King even gave a little nod to him in his author’s note. Beaumont has written a couple of novels under his own name, but it’s the Stark persona who’s the more successful. Then someone threatens to blow the whistle.
Right at the beginning, we have this awesome scene where Beaumont and his wife are burying Stark in a fictional grave so that a magazine photographer can take a few photos. He’s also giving an interview to a major publication on the death of Stark, but the only problem is that Stark just won’t quite stay dead.
From here, we have a sort of hybrid novel that’s half thriller and half supernatural, in which Stark is trying to force Beaumont to write a new novel for him. If Beaumont agrees, he’ll die and Stark will be brought to life for good – but the problem is that Stark can be pretty persuasive, especially thanks to his handy little razor.
I thought that the mixture of genres and influences worked well here to create something that’s first and foremost a good story. I also think that there’s something in it that appeals to readers because we secretly all wonder how people who write dark stories are able to do it. The idea of there being a separate part to writers which allows them to write about such atrocities is arguably a reflection of our own subconscious thoughts as readers.
It’s all interesting stuff to think about, but you can also get a lot out of The Dark Half even if you’re not much of a reader but you like something to take on holiday that’s going to creep you out. There’s a bit of everything here, including some pretty extreme violence scenes that not everyone will be comfortable with. As for me, though, I thought it was a masterclass in building tension and developing characters while slowly revealing their back story, and it was also just a damn good novel. But I’m running out of King…